Ok, I know, I know. Technically Early Times is not a bourbon, but a Kentucky Whiskey (well, "Whisky" as labelled) on account of some of it being aged in used barrels. However, in the spirit of thriftiness, I thought it deserved a place in the economical bourbon review series. After all, in trying times rules must be bent.
Early Times, as the label will tell you, was established in 1860. The distillery was founded by Jim Beam's uncle, John, and has since passed to the Brown-Forman Company. It is now made in Shively, KY and was wildly popular in the 1950's. Early Times has recently enjoyed a lot of success abroad, as an export.
Neat: ET is darker than one might think, being an amber-brown. The nose is vanilla, vanilla, vanilla with some caramel and slight citrus. It encourages you to taste it. Mouthfeel is more oily than Ancient Age, and has a greater presence. Early Times' taste has a honey sweetness, with undertones of leather. It is a much bigger taste than Ancient Age but is not overwhelming at all. I enjoy its simplicity, as if it's proud to be uncomplicated. It finishes in a hurry and treads lightly with only a timid burn. I thought it was very satisfying.
Whiskey Sour: Early Times makes a great whiskey sour. There isn't much analysis to be done here; when mixed, it makes a whiskey sour taste like you'd hope one would. It's easy to drink, making the glass hard to put down until you're done.
Early Times is surprisingly tasty. It's low prices belies its quality, and if I drank it blind, I'm not sure if I wouldn't be tricked into thinking it was a higher-priced whiskey. At bars, ET is usually relegated to the rail, but compared to its company at that class of drink, it is definitely an over-achiever. An outstanding value that has earned its place on a bourbon blog.